This week, Sean and Michelle look at recent releases from Seven Seas, Yen Press, Kodansha Comics, and Vertical, Inc.
Alice in the Country of Clover: Knight’s Knowledge, Vol. 3 | By QuinRose and Sai Asai | Seven Seas – I’m always more fascinated by the mechanics of Wonderland than who Alice ends up with (it’s Ace, in case you hadn’t been paying attention, and there’s a nice love scene towards the end), and I’m happy to say there was a lot of what I loved here. Faceless vs. Roleholders, Alice as a catalyst, etc. And yes, this also involves Alice as a hostage, but Alice isn’t meant to be an action hero. Her struggle for self-worth and acceptance is why we read Country of Hearts, and it’s nice to see she finds it in Ace, a character she shares a lot of similarities to Also, Blood and Vivaldi are AMAZING here, let me tell you. For Ace fans, ignore his earlier book, this is the series to get.-Sean Gaffney
The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi-chan, Vol. 8 | By Puyo and Nagaru Tanigawa| Yen Press – I read this after reading the anthology omnibus The Celebration of Haruhi Suzumiya, and it reminded me how grateful I am that we have an author here who knows how to be funny and heartwarming and build on the characters, even though he’s doing a gag manga. We’re up to parodies of the 9th novel here, meaning Sasaki and company, and we therefore have parodies of the cast who have been through a year’s worth of stuff together. Celebration always has Haruhi & Co. at the ‘I have learned nothing, I read the first novel once’ stage. Appreciate the Haruhi-chan you have is what I’m saying. Also, the JoJo’s parody in here is hysterical.-Sean Gaffney
Sankarea, Vol. 9 | By Mitsuru Hattori| Kodansha Comics – This volume wraps up the seriously dark ZOMA arc, but its aftereffects linger. Rea still doesn’t have any memories of Chihiro, and is more than a little creeped out by his familiarity. The rest of the cast works to jog her memory, but it doesn’t really seem to be working. No matter what’s done to try and bring back the cute romantic comedy antics, though, it’s the darkness that we remember. And in this case that’s the last chapter, featuring one of Grandpa’s numerous wives, who is prepared to give Chihiro some exposition regarding his mother that we’ll have to wait till next volume for. There are moments of cuteness and fanservice here, but not since Franken Fran has a title made it this uncomfortable.-Sean Gaffney
Say “I Love You”, Vol. 4 | By Kanae Hazuki| Kodansha Comics – There’s a lot going on in this fourth volume, as we not only get the model whose work is drawing Yamato, but also a new underclassman who has past ties with Yamato and feels a close bond with Mei. That said, the main reason to read this title is still its heroine, who is trying not only to figure out what love is and how to react to it, but also how to deal with friends and socialization at all. There’s also a great subplot devoted to bullying (a major theme of this work) and cycles of violence, and how yearning for payback can take you down a path you don’t want to go. This isn’t quite as movie of the week as the old potboilers like Life or Limit, but it’s operating on a smaller scale, and I really enjoy it.-Sean Gaffney
What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Vol. 5 | By Fumi Yoshinaga | Vertical, Inc. – Fumi Yoshinaga’s charming What Did You Eat Yesterday? is a slice-of-life depiction of 40-something gay couple Shiro Kakei, a lawyer, and Kenji Yabuki, a hairstylist, as they go about their daily lives and make what I would consider pretty elaborate home-cooked meals. There’s actually a bit more plot in this volume than some others, introducing several ideas (new friends, matching rings, a murder trial…) that could move the story along in interesting ways, and though that’s a welcome development, I preferred some of the quieter moments, like Shiro cooking companionably alongside his mother and, most of all, a welcome glimpse into Kenji’s past with a story of how his newfound teenage height scared off his deadbeat dad even though “my heart was a fluffy princess’s.” Ha! This is a lovely series, and once again I find myself grateful to Vertical for licensing it. – Michelle Smith